Cruising in colorful lowrider cars, Denver Chicanos celebrate their culture

Francisco Miraval EFE
Photo Credit: Paco Rojas/Pixabay

Denver – As they have done every week for the past half-century, Chicano and Mexican families parade down a busy boulevard on Denver’s west side each Sunday afternoon to show off the workmanship and colors of their customized lowrider cars in celebration of their culture and traditions.

But this Sunday, unlike previous ones, the parade had a special status since it was the first time the state capital of Colorado officially recognized this custom as “A Cruise down Fedz Day.” Down Federal Boulevard, that is.

This is a day of “family, love and art,” the basis of the display of these showy, close-to-the-ground cars with sophisticated hydraulic systems.

“We work hard all week long,” Javier Hernandez told EFE about why their tough daily labor deserves the rest, relaxation and fun of these Sunday lowrider cruises.

Hernandez, a construction worker, acknowledges that this cruise, often at very slow speeds with music turned up as loud as possible and even with loudspeakers blasting out popular old songs like “La Cucaracha,” might sometimes make residents along Denver’s north-south Federal Boulevard feel like pulling their hair out.

However, the demographic changes over the past 10 years on Denver’s west side, with a population almost exclusively Hispanic, and the significant increase of traffic on Federal Boulevard, have affected in recent years both the volume of participation and the time the cruise lasts, which has been reduced to a few hours.

Furthermore, after the recent mass murder in El Paso, Texas, and with a view to the growing hostility toward Hispanics and other minorities, many participants prefer not to drive around waving big Mexican flags like they used to.

Ben Chavez, a community leader, is one of the organizers of “A Cruise down Fedz Day.” One of his goals, he said, is “to invite all the neighbors to get talking with each other,” which has had good results in the past.

Not in vain, because among the participants there is an enormous diversity that goes way beyond Mexicans and Chicanos. In fact, one of the most popular lowrider clubs, the Lowriding Zoot Suiters, includes a good number of African Americans and Filipinos.

“For Chicanos, lowriding is a way of life expressed through cars, style and art,” said Lucille Rivera, executive director of Denver’s Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC).

In fact, the new exhibition at the CHAC Gallery, which opens Sept. 6, will be “Lowrider Culture” and will focus on the “beauty of everything to do with lowrider cars,” Rivera said.

But Mexicans and Chicanos were not always able to cruise down Federal Boulevard as freely as they do now.

In the 1980s and ’90s the drivers were often arrested by police who considered them street gang roughnecks.

Though it took time, the steps taken by local groups were successful and since 2012 even got Denver police to join in the cruises with their own lowrider constructed by Hispanic students at a local school.

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